Elder Jordan Royal

Elder Jordan Royal
Jordan hugs big sister Kelli

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dog Days of Bongabon

Jordan and Elder Manalo, chillin' on P-Day
            Well, this week went by a lot faster than I expected it to.  We had interviews with President Martino on Wednesday, which was pretty cool.  It was my first time having interviews since after my initial interview at my arrival.  I have now officially been in the Philippines longer than I was in the MTC, hitting my four month mark on Saturday.  How crazy is that?!  I also received about 40 Dear Elders on Wednesday as well dated back from Christmas until about the third week of January or second week.  So, a lot of things have happened this week.  A lot of spiritual, interesting, and funny things.  Magsimula tayo.

Jordan and Elder Declaro with the zone getting a view of the valley
            We've been really progressing with Nanay Rose Marrie.  We taught lesson one and the spirit was really powerful when we taught her about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon.  We think that she should be baptized by the end of February.  She's a really great lady.  She comes to church by herself every week.  Which is really rare here in the Philippines.  Usually investigators don't come to church unless they are dragged out of their houses.  Speaking of great investigators, we have two kids that we are teaching through the Rescue Program (the Sta. Maria Family).  They've been inactive for a couple of years.  When we met them, they told us that they wanted their kids to be baptized and have us teach them.  What missionary can deny that?!  Jarom and Jonas are great.  Jarom is 12 almost 13, and he has the greatest faith and spirit that I've ever seen anyone at that age.  Even more than some of the kids that are already baptized and have the Holy Ghost.  I know I definitely wasn't like that when I was his age.  He and Jonas have the greatest desire to follow Jesus Christ that I've ever seen.  We did have a sad moment before we taught them this week.  Before we were about to start the lesson, one of their friends came to pick up their uncle, Elmer Sta. Maria, and take him to the Inglesia ni Cristo service that night.  So it was a pretty awkward 20 minutes talking to him.  That was probably the longest conversation that I've ever had with a member of Inglesia.  All of the other members refuse to talk to us, because it's bawal (taboo) in their church to talk to us.  Where's the free agency in that?!  Oh well.  All we could do was talk to him and be polite while Brother Elmer was getting dressed to go with him.  When they left, they were only gone for about three seconds when Jarom shouted, "Go!  Go!  Walang Inglesia!"  As funny as that was, we were worried that they probably heard him.  We don't think he did.  It was pretty sad to see an endowed member of the Church leave to go to another church and have a baptismal date with them next month.  Here's where the miracle comes.  We went early on Sunday morning to pick up the kids to take them to the District Conference in Bongabon when we saw Brother and Sister Sta. Maria dressed up saying that they were going with them.  We were so happy that they were coming!  Brother Sta. Maria definitely seemed different.  Especially since he was wearing a white shirt and tie to go to church instead of his plaid shirt that he wore to Inglesia.  I could tell that our prayers about him were definitely answered.  Hopefully, they can continue to come to church and return, because that's what the Rescue Program is all about. 
Elder Royal - enjoying the hike with the zone

            So we had a funny experience happen on Friday morning while we were doing weekly planning.  We looked out the window and there were about 10 Jehovah's Witness missionaries going door to door.  They even came to our door, but luckily Nanay Estinoco was there washing our clothes, so she talked to them.  We really wanted to go and talk to them, because that would've been really interesting.  Perhaps we could have exchanged pamphlets (we did get one they gave to Nanay Estinoco to read).  Funny stuff there.  Okay, so the Philippines have these really weird goats that sound just like humans.  I don't know if they're like that anywhere else.  Goats laugh and even scream like really people.  Well, it's not really laughing, but it sounds like it. It's so funny.  I've almost busted out laughing during lessons, because I can hear goats outside screaming.  It sounds like they're in pain, but they're really not.  They just stand there and scream.  So the other day, we were eating lunch, and I turned around just in time to see a big dog get run over by a jeepny.  I just saw it rolling and then the back tire went over it.  It was yelping and hobbling to the other side of street until it fell into the gutter.  The gutters here are like two feet deep at least.  Once it fell into the gutter, it didn't make a sound.  It was sad.  After a moment of silence, I continued eating.  We went to see if the dog was still there about an hour later, but I guess the owner got it out.  Okay, isa pang (another) story about animals.  So we were on our way to Palayan this morning to play basketball when the jeepney stopped suddenly in the street.  We looked out the window and saw about a thousand ducks crossing street guided about three guys with sticks, or duck shepherds.  That was pretty funny.  I played basketball for the first time since I left the MTC.  After about two games, I was completely covered in sweat.  We were lucky to be playing in a dome area, because it would've been a lot worse in the sun.  It was still really fun, though.  We played as a zone.

Elder Royal with more members of his zone
            Mom, I see that you already sent my package.  I was about to ask you if you could send some cold and flu medicine, because I have wala (none).  It would be nice to have now, since I started getting a cold yesterday.  Oh well, I'll just have to buy something here.  Hopefully, it works as well. 

            We had District Conference this week.  We were able to hear from President Martino and a member of the Area Seventy.  It was a great conference.  It was mostly about the Rescue Program and how we should encourage the members to bring back all they can that are less active.  I have seen the Rescue Program working miracles this month, and it's only the first month of the year.  It'll be interesting to see how this affects the rest of the year.  I didn't know that there was a song in the Hymn book all about this: "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd" (hymn no. 221).  It's all about shepherd bringing back the lost sheep.  Pretty good song. 

            Well I think that's about it for me.  I hope that you all have a good week and that the Lord answers your prayers, because they're definitely answered here.  I would strongly encourage you all to pray for experiences to serve as an instrument to lead others back to the Savior.  They may be lost, but are never forgotten.

            Mahal ko kayo!

            Elder Jordan "Hit and Run Witness" Royal

P.S.  Special thanks to Sister Lilian Adonis for providing pictures to the family via Facebook!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Week of Successes

Jordan - close up and personal
            Don't let the subject title confuse you.  It wasn't really the week of success.  It was the week of great success!  We committed FIVE of our investigators to baptism this week and have set goal dates for all of them.  Hopefully, they are successful, because this is pretty exciting.  Three of them are from the Rescue Program here in the Philippines (Jarom and Jonas Sta. Maria, Erick Padre).  The Sta. Maria kids are such smart kids.  Jarom was a former investigator about three years ago and was ready for baptism, but then the missionaries didn't follow up with the date.  They really know their stuff.  It's like we don't even have to teach them (haha, but we do, that's the rule).  We've really been trying to get their parents to come to church as well, because they're sealed in the temple, but have been less active for a couple of years.  After many assurances from the parents that they would come to church, only Sister Sta. Maria came with her children, which is a big improvement from last week since these kids went by themselves.  We'll have to follow up with Brother Sta. Maria and asked what happened.  We're trying really hard not to baptize little children without a strong support system from their parents.  The reason why we have so many less actives in the Philippines, and especially here in the Angeles Mission, is that missionaries baptize little children with no support from their parents, so they never make it back to church.  The missionaries usually know their situation before baptism, but baptize them anyway, which just isn't what missionary work is about. 
Jordan . . . outstanding in his field
            Anyway, we met a woman this week, Rose Marie, and she's just great.  She's a referral from Nanay Rosa (syempre, de ba?).  Almost all of our investigators are from her.  That's what you call a great fellowshipper.  While she and Elder Declaro were talking, and I couldn't understand, they talked about what we were going to teach her.  When we got there, I noticed that she had a shrine for her husband on a table in the corner of the room.  This is a very common thing here when someone dies and it gives missionaries a clue of what to teach first: The Plan of Salvation.  I was about to lean over and tell Elder Declaro that we need to teach Lesson 2, which is the Plan of Salvation, but as I was about to tell him, he already had the Lesson 2 pamphlet in his hand.  So I took a guess that's what they were talking about on the way over there.  We taught her twice this week, and she just loves what we're teaching so far.  She even came to church yesterday with a copy of the Book of Mormon we gave her.  She even stayed for Sunday School.  It's a miracle that we received that referral, which, by the way, is the most effective way in finding new investigators (future missionaries, take note). 
Elder Frearson from New Zealand . . . is awesome

            Yesterday was all about Rescue.  We didn't teach any investigators yesterday.  Instead, the Branch Presidency, the District President, and some of the members took us to some less active families that we haven't met yet.  It was awesome seeing the members doing the teaching and bearing their testimonies.  The Rescue Program has really sparked interest in the Kalikid.  Our less active members are coming back to church and we're continuing to invite other less actives to come back to church. 

            I went on another exchange with the Zone Leaders in Palayan.  This time, I was with Elder Manalo.  He's a fun guy to be around.  I'm glad I was able to be with him.  We taught the same investigators that I taught with Elder McCormack last Sunday, and they all remembered me.  You know why?  Besides the fact that I'm tall and white, they love my blue eyes.  All of the Filipinos here seem to be crazy about blue eyes, and especially the members in Palayan.  At a certain member’s home in Palayan, they're pretty much all girls from ages 12-17.  It was really hard to teach them, because they kept staring at me and interrupting us and trying to make up some stupid pick up lines.  I think they're more converted to the missionaries, but Elder Manalo kept telling me that they have strong testimonies.  I wasn't really buying it.  Oh well.  If any of you are going to the Philippines and you have blonde hair, are tall, and have blue eyes, just be ready.  (Take note Miles Kehler and Seth Bohman.  Congrats by the way, man!  I know you'll love it here.  I had a Sister in my district from the MTC that is in your mission right now, and also some other cool Elders that I met at the MTC.  The Philippines is definitely the place to be.  And Brennen Marshal, you go in the MTC very soon don't ya?  You'll love it there.)
On the bus to the bowling alley on P-Day

Zoning out!  Love getting together with the zone for activities
            Last Monday, after I emailed, our zone went to a bowling alley in my area.  We went with Sister Adonis and others from the Branch.  The bowling ally was actually a lot nicer looking than I thought it would be.  You know how they have bumpers and stuff for little kids?  Well here, they have three lanes that are miniature EVERYTHING!  The bowling balls are like the size of shot puts for Track and Field and the pins were about half the size of regular pins.  I thought it was the coolest thing.  It probably would've been harder, but that would've been really fun to play on those lanes.  Elder Bradshaw and Elder Manalo challenged me and Elder Frearson to a game.  Only two people were allowed in one lane, but the scores were added from the two people, so you could challenge the lane next to you.  I didn't do as well as I have usually done in my prime (like I ever had a prime in bowling, haha), but we still beat them in two games.  The losers had to buy the winners ice cream (which they haven't done yet).  I'm just going to keep bugging them about that until it actually happens (haha).  Elder Bradshaw is actually really good.  He's bowled since he was 12.  He knows how to spin the ball and stuff, but it wasn't good enough to beat us.  Today for P-Day, we went to some place in our area with Sister Adonis and everyone else that was with us last week.  We went on top of his mountain and a great view of pretty much everything. 
Bowling Day
                         Thursday morning during our exchange in Palayan, Elder Declaro and Elder McCormack came from Kalikid to meet up with us to do our service project at a local less active family in Palayan.  The family has a roofing business.  They take long grass (I forgot what it's called) and there's some wrapping involved and stuff, and that's how they make their roofs.  They call them KidKids.  It was pretty hard to get good at it at first.  I was tutored very patiently on how to do it by one of the members in the family.  Of course, they had to tutor and help me, because an American has probably never made a Kidkid before.  I was able to get good at it and it actually turned out to be pretty fun. 

At the Adonis home after bowling
            So this week I've been having random fantasies about volleyball this week.  I thought about that a lot everywhere we went.  On our way to an investigator's house, I'm just completely zoned out.  I just keep thinking about the good times that I had playing volleyball.  I seriously miss it - a lot.  Like a whole lot.  Speaking of volleyball, I read from Dad that Jahren from Coronado got his mission call to Georgia and that Byrin Romney got his mission call to England.  Seriously that's awesome!  There are so many missionaries that are getting their calls now.  It's awesome!  This work is probably the best thing you could be doing right now.  Well, I think that's about it for me.  Tapos na.  Sana Makakaroon kayong maganda ng linggo!  Mahal ko kayo!

            Elder Jordan "Bowling Champ" Royal

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Work Rolls On in the Bukid

            Well once again, I'm grateful for the chance I have to write you all.  I'm in Palayan right now with Elder McCormack from Australia.  He's older than the average missionary (27 will be 28 next week), but he's such a great guy.  He's our new Zone Leader who replaced Elder Villareal.  He's a college graduate with an engineering degree, so he's mas matalino.  We're in the same computer shop as last week with the same kids next to me watching Tom and Jerry on You Tube.  It's kind of a temptation to look at their screen, because it's a pretty great show (ha).  Anyway, so yesterday afternoon, the Zone Leaders came by our house for a companionship exchange.  I went with Elder McCormack and Elder Manalo stayed with Elder Declaro in Kalikid.  I was pretty happy to spend time with a foreigner like me whose been out for a year and a half and knows Tagalog.  I've only heard of Elder McCormack a little bit before he became our Zone Leader.  We got to talk a lot and got to know each other quite a bit in just a couple of hours.  Being with him gave me a taste of what it would be like if I were here with Brad right now.  Mostly because of the age, but also because it gave me an image of what Brad must've been like here.  We taught a lesson to one of their investigators about enduring to the end, and grabi sobrang astig.  During that lesson, I understood every word that was said and all of the concerns that were shared, and I was able to teach the lesson in probably the best Tagalog that I've ever been able to speak since I became a missionary.  It was like that for the rest of the lessons during the rest of the night as well.  I have no idea where it all came from, but I'm so grateful for the Gift of Tongues.  Even though I'm not even close to having perfect Tagalog, I was able to get my point across in understandable Tagalog.  My testimony of this spiritual gift was definitely strengthened.  Elder McCormack was also there to correct me and teach me a lot more words and phrases that make so much more sense to me now.  Overall, it was a pretty great day yesterday.
We love pictures of Elder Royal from any angle . . . even the back of his pretty little head at a baptism
             Segi, so now that I've said all of that, I guess I can tell you what else happened this week.  Right now, we have about 12 investigators in just one area, thanks to Nanay Rosa.  Sometimes I just can't believe her love and dedication to wanting to share the gospel with EVERYONE.  Elder Declaro and I just laugh at how bold she can be sometimes.  When we go to someone's house where it looks like no one is home, she just walks into the house anyway and finds the people, and then we have our lesson (haha).  We're focusing on a woman right now who's just really into our lessons, but it's so hard to get in contact with her or teach her.  Whenever she is there, her husband is usually passed out drunk and she tells us to come back later.  When we do teach her, her husband doesn't want anything to do with us, even though we try to include him or just say hi, but he just runs into the house.  We always have good experiences and lessons though when we do teach her.  She knows that our message is true, but the only problem seems to be the husband's never sober.  She's progressing though, which is good.  Other than that, we really didn't teach as much as we would like, because they're always busy.  It's ok though; there's always next week.
Elders Royal and Declaro prepare to enjoy another awesome Filipino meal
             Our main focus all over the Philippines is the Rescue Program.  There are over 600,000 members here in the Philippines, which is awesome, but just a little over 100,000 of them are active.  That’s a problem.  We attended a special broadcast from the Philippines Area Presidency.  They compared the Philippines to the Allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5.  The tree has many leaves and branches (members) but not a strong trunk (Priesthood holders) or deep roots (doctrine).  If the branches get bigger and bigger with no support, the tree will topple over when the storms come.  So, this rescue program is all about bringing back the less actives and getting more priesthood holders (leadership) here in the Philippines.  Right now in Kalikid, Elder Declaro and I have had some success with our less actives.  Whenever we can’t teach our investigators, we go to our less actives and teach them and encourage them to come to church.  Some of the families and other less actives have now been to church two weeks in a row, but they need to come two more times in a row in order to count them as active members once again.  I believe that the Area Presidency was truly inspired by Heavenly Father, because He knows that this is a big problem here in the Philippines.  Hopefully, the Rescue Program will get all of the members and missionaries excited to bring back the less actives here.  I know I am!  :)
Elders Royal and Declaro share a lethargic moment

            I think that's it for me for now.  I can't think of anything else that really happened this week.  The area is doing great.  Oh, Elder Agrabio from our Zone transfered and we now have Elder Nunn brand new from the Provo MTC.  He was there when I was about six weeks in the MTC.  He's a really nice guy from St. Louis.  So that makes our zone ALL new missionaries pretty much.  Every companionship besides the Zone Leaders are trainers/trainees.  So that's pretty interesting.  Bongabon Zone has become the new training grounds for brand new missionaries (haha).

Dad, I would like also to receive the mission letters from my friends at BYU (Michael Neff and Tanner Johns).  They're in the MTC right now.  You can find them on my Facebook.  I don't know how else you would do that or if you can, but if you can't it's alright.  Mom, I really don't know what you could send in my package.  Just to let you know, I love peanut butter now.  Weird right?  I got some Jiff from the store a few weeks ago, so that's lasting me.  Gatorade would be fine and maybe some cough drops or something.  I love you all very much!

            Mahal Ko Kayo.  You're in my prayers everyday :).

            Elder Jordan "Search and Rescue Fanatic" Royal 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Halfway Done!

            No I'm not halfway through my mission.  After this week, I'll be halfway done with the 12 week training program.  I don't know whether that's gone by fast or not.  I still feel like I haven't made much improvement with my Tagalog yet.  Well, I don't know.  Maybe.  I just have to learn and endure for the next six months or so before I become fluent in the language (haha).

Elders Royal and Declaro - pic by WML Al Abellera 

            So this week was kinda slow for us teaching wise.  We didn't get to teach as many people as we wanted, because they were never around.  (Ugh!)  Our biggest success this week was probably with our less active members.  When we couldn't teach our investigators, we would just teach our less active members a lesson.  On Saturday, we visited a lot of our less actives and invited them to attend church.  One family that we taught has been inactive for about three years now.  Elder Declaro and I taught them the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy and read from Mosiah 13 which talks about the Ten Commandments.  I was leading the teaching, and I wasn't exactly sure what was going on.  After the mother read the verse, I bore my testimony and then asked Elder Declaro to share his testimony.  He was silent for about 20 seconds, just staring at her.  I didn't want to look at her, because I thought, "I hope I didn’t offend her by bringing this up."  So I just kept looking at Elder Declaro waiting for him to speak.  He finally spoke, bore his testimony, and committed them to come to church the next day.  They committed to do so.  As we were leaving, I was still worried that I offended her and asked Elder Declaro why he didn't speak.  He told me that I didn't offend her, but that she was crying because she was touched by the spirit of our message.  When bearing testimony, if someone is feeling the Spirit, we are to stop and let the spirit touch their hearts.  I knew I could feel the spirit, but I was still worried that I may have offended her.  So, I was relieved when Elder Declaro confirmed that was not the case and gave me great relief and peace.  They, and a lot of other less actives, came to church yesterday and we had our highest attendance at church ever (that I know of): 134.  We planned on having a lot of investigators come to church yesterday, but only two came.  One of them is Erick Padre, and he should be baptized by February.  We have another less active family who we're really focusing on, because they have two children who are our prime investigators right now.  They're part of the Rescue Program here in the Philippines, and we just really wanted see them at church yesterday.  They didn't come, though, even though we committed them to come to church all week.  So that was pretty frustrating.  It's okay, though.  We should have a good week this week with our investigators (fingers crossed).

Jordan and Elder Declaro with the Adonis family
            So I just have a few questions regarding the sports over there.  Who's playing/played in the NCAA National Championship game?  Super Bowl?  NBA starting?  I heard it is still a maybe.  Filipinos are really big on basketball here, so I guess that's why I'm asking.  It's too bad that BYU lost to Baylor, but it sounds like they could have a really good team this year.  So I got another Carabao belt and a pretty sweet shoulder bag with the mission name on it.  The Carabao belts are really awesome!  I was thinking about getting one for Dad, Brad, Jason, and David and sending them there, but that would be pretty expensive to do.  So I'll just wait until you guys come pick me up after my mission for you to get them, because they're that awesome. 

            So I had a pretty rough day this week.  I just finished reading Pearl of Great Price and had some spiritual experiences in the morning, but Satan is always there to make you forget the spiritual experience and discourage you.  So, sadly, that's what happened.  I was pretty down on myself from the language and I just wasn't really happy during the afternoon.  When we were walking back from an appointment, I saw the LDS chapel in the beautiful sunset here.  I thought to myself that a lot of sacrifices go into building those chapels.  Members pay their tithing and sacrifice their time.  Then I thought, I bet those members were influenced and touched by the spirit by some missionaries.  Even a missionary like me, who testified the truthfulness of the gospel and the love of Savior in broken, choppy Tagalog.  I was thinking earlier that I can't make a difference here if people can't understand me or I can't understand them.  It's really hard to get a deep connection with someone, because I can't communicate with anybody yet.  But, when I saw the chapel, I immediately felt better.  Even though I can't communicate fully with someone yet, I can testify that the Church is true and that we have a loving Heavenly Father.  And that's the most important thing.

Jordan and Elder Declaro enjoying the wedding reception
            Funny experience.  We were walking to an investigator's house, when we heard music blasting at the near by outdoor basketball court.  We walked by and they're just these people practicing for something.  They've been practicing since before Christmas, including one of our investigators.  I asked Elder Declaro what they were practicing for.  He told me it was probably a gay beauty pageant.  We both laughed and then asked one of our other investigators what they were doing.  They confirmed what Elder Declaro said.  We watched for a moment.  It was both funny and disturbing.

            One night when we got home, Elder Declaro looked at my stomach and told me that I had gotten fatter.  I just looked down sadly and said, "yeah.  I know."  It's true, but boy do I love it.  How could I not be fat here when I the food is just so good and it's not hot and humid yet, so I can't sweat it off.  (haha).  I figure by the time hot season starts in April and once I get transferred, I'll probably be back to normal.  I could be training after this transfer, so I could be here in Kalikid for six months.  Hopefully I don't train, because I would have to know the language to be able to train a brand new Filipino fresh from the MTC who would probably know very little English.  Well, I've had some really good food and some really bad food this week.  I had chicken intestine for the first time, which was really good by the way. That gives me a little more confidence to try the chicken feet next time.  Then I had something called, "Bitter," but when Elder Declaro told me he said, "Peter."  It was more like the former - probably the most bitter thing that I have ever tasted.  The goat meat in it was alright, but it didn't make it the soup any better.

Can we ever get enough pictures of Filipino Royal soda?
            Last night we went to Palayan to pick up our Zone Leader, Elder Villareal (from Tampa Bay, FL), to take him to Cabanatuan to stay for the night, because he's done with his mission.  When we got there, there were a bunch of members taking pictures and saying their goodbyes.  Most of them were like 13 year old girls, which I thought was pretty funny.  When he said his last goodbyes, everyone was just bawling.  One of the girls was sitting on the ground crying as he was saying goodbye to everyone.  I wondered if I would ever have that sort of special connection with the people, because I don't right now (once again, language issue).  Elder Villareal was crying a little bit, too.  We are sad to see him go.  He has been a great missionary and a loving person towards everyone.  He made me feel right at home when I first came into the zone.  His companion, Elder Manalo, was really sad to see him go.  They were together for about six months in the same area.  Elder Manalo is a really cool guy, too.  He stayed at our house last night and he's going to pick up our new zone leader later today.  We still don't know who it is.  When he said goodbye to me, he hugged me and said, "Finish your mission.  All twenty-one months you have left."  I just laughed and told him to get out of here (haha joke lang).

            If possible, could you maybe send me some more music?  (EFY 2011-1999, Vocal Point, or anything like that).  You could maybe burn them on a disc and send them to me.  Or maybe send them through email and I could maybe put it in my iPod?  I don't know.  We can figure that out later. 

            I think that's about it for me.  I hope that everyone is doing good.  Mahal ko kayo!

            Elder Jordan "Baliw" Royal

Note from Mike (Jordan's Dad):

           We received the following Facebook message from Sister Lilian Adonis today.  “Elder Royal is doing pretty well.  He is our pianist in the sacrament meeting.  Our branch is blessed to have him.”  That was sweet.  It sounds like Jordan is getting plenty to eat - a wide variety of the local cuisine.  No new pictures this week.  Have a great week.  Mike  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year from the Philippines

       Wow...I can't believe it's 2012 already.  This year just flew by so fast!  I still remember New Year's Eve of 2010 playing ping pong outside in freezing 32 degree weather (haha).  I feel like I just got my mission call, but that was all the way back in May 2011.  Crazy.  I definitely didn't think I was going to be spending New Year's Eve in the Philippines last New Year’s, but here I am.  Well, before I tell you all of the illegal fireworks and explosives I lit off in celebration of the New Year (haha joke lang!  I thought I would give Dad a little freak out moment - ha), I'll tell you everything that happened this week.

Pictures from the photo booth at the local ward New Year's Eve gathering
       We taught Erick Tan for a couple of weeks and he was just doing great.  He read the entire Book of Mormon in three days and was really enjoying all of our lessons.  During the day, I always looked forward to teaching him, because the Spirit was so strong every time that we taught him.  He really had the desire to give up everything he had for the Gospel.  We were going to teach him on Monday about the Word of Wisdom, but he was drunk, so we didn't (ironic right?).  We came to his house on Tuesday or Wednesday night, and taught him about the Word of Wisdom.  Like the other lessons before, the Spirit was really strong.  Before we taught him, he had a strong desire to give up smoking and drinking.  When we came by to teach him the next day, he told us not to come back and teach him anymore.  That was a real surprise and heart-breaker for us.  He was making so much progress, but he just can't get rid of his alcohol and smoking addictions.  We stop by to say hi every once in a while, but we won't be teaching him anymore......for now.  Eugine Lorena, who was also progressing, moved from Kalikid to Manila on Sunday for work.  We planned on having his baptismal interview on Friday, but he wasn't around, so we thought we could do it this week, but his mom told us he's moving to Manila.  Also another heart-breaker.  Hopefully he'll be contacted by the missionaries in Manila and he'll still have that desire to be baptized.  The good news is that we had some great lessons some new investigators.  The Sta. Maria family was sealed in the temple, but is inactive.  They have two children right now who we're teaching who want to be baptized.  Teaching them is a great opportunity to bring this family back into activity and to remember the covenants and promises that they made at baptism and the temple.  We always have the father and mother bare their testimony at the end of every lesson, and they have a strong spirit about them (even though I don't know what they're saying).

Jordan and Elder Declaro having dinner (and Royal soda) on NYE
       So, funny story for ya.  Elder Declaro, Brother Al, and I were walking around one night trying to find an investigator's house. We saw a guy standing in front of his house, so we decided to talk to him.  He was really tall, but I couldn't tell who he was, because there was a light on behind him, so I couldn't see his face, but he could see us.  We started talking to him, and then he was speaking in a language that I never expected anyone to speak in this area....English.  Turns out that he was a tall white guy who had an American accent.  I was taken completely by surprise and I was actually able to talk to someone.  His name is Jeff from Wisconsin and he's a missionary for some other church.  He's like in his 40's though and he said he's been making annual trips here since the 90's.  I asked him if he heard of OUR missionaries before.  He said that he did and that he had some huge disagreements with us.  He joked with us and said, "come by if you ever want to debate."  We just laughed and said "maybe” (no not ever).  Religions that just want to argue are the people that we stay away from.  The Savior did not argue when He taught.  The Spirit departs with contention, so that's why I would never do something like that.  Even kids from high school wanted to do that, but I never participated in it.  The one thing that you should always share with people is truth and testimony.  We walked away from that laughing and asking what just happened.

Elders Royal and Declaro are grateful for a wonderful New Year's Eve dinner with the Adonis family
       I finished reading all of Doctrine & Covenants for the first time.  It was really awesome reading it, because the words in every section are those of Jesus Christ.  It was a great experience for me reading it and I started the Pearl of Great Price on Saturday.  I love studying the scriptures.

        Oh and Brad, I have had Ube before you asked me on Monday.  I get a small thing of ube flavored ice cream almost everyday, and it is pretty awesome.  Those of you who don't know what ube is, it's pretty much just a purple sweet potato.  Buko (coconut) salad is really good, too.  They just make coconut milk with some of the shavings and put a bunch of cut up fruit in it.

David proposed to Kambria in the Pine Valley Chapel
       Congrats to David and Kambria for the engagement!  The pictures Dad sent were pretty cool.  I'm sure she'll make a fine addition to our family :).  Man I wish I could've been there for that...the story is pretty funny to read from Dad’s perspective ...haha o well...I'll see them with a child when I get back (haha).  Oh, and where in the heck did you guys get four-wheelers at the Cabin!?  Man, you guys have been holding me out on this this ENTIRE TIME?!  (haha - joke lang.)  And Jessica Welch received a mission call to Ecuador?  That is awesome!  Please congratulate her for me.

        Oh right, I'm supposed to tell you what I did for New Year's.  Well, we went home and ate a tub of ube ice cream, watched some church movies, and listened to people blow up sticks of dynamite.  (Dynamite is much cheaper than just buying real fireworks, if you can believe that.)  It's like 20 pesos here for firecrackers, which is like 50 cents in America.  I didn't see any roasted pigs for New Year’s Eve, but I have seen the live ones and they're extremely huge!  I never thought pigs could be this big...the most interesting thing I've eaten this week?.......the spaghetti.  All the pasta they cook here is with like sweet tasting sauce...o and eating spaghetti with a spoon and fork is soo much easier haha...the most interesting thing I've eaten so far is squid from the Adonis.  It was alright, but it probably wouldn't have been as good if it wasn't cooked in a really good sauce.  Oh, and sunny side up eggs with chicken and sausage on rice is probably one of the greatest things ever.  For breakfast, I usually just cook these top roman noodles called Lucky Me.  Really good.  Oh, another thing I ate that was interesting:  Chicharon.  Which is deep fried pig skin.  It was pretty weird at first, but tastes really good with vinegar.
Ringing in the New Year with Ward Mission Leader Al Abellera
       The language is coming slowly.  I can hear words, but I can't translate it fast enough in my mind to get what people are saying.  I plan to buy the dictionary Brad recommended while we are in Cabanatuan City today.  And yes, Mom, I still have my health (haha).

       Well, I think that's about it.  I hope that everyone had an enjoyable New Year’s.  Definitely one of the warmest ones I've ever had.  The work is moving forward here :).  The language will arrive, perhaps suddenly one day I will be speaking fluently.  Until then, I’ll just keep working away at it, and praying for the gift of tongues.  The gospel is true everyone!  Know it and live it.!

        Mahal Ko Kayo

       Elder Jordan “Only Teach By the Spirit” Royal